Home improvement Budget Kitchen Makeover July 22, 2013

I did a mini-version of this post right after moving in, this is the full story:

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Despite appearances, I don’t particularly love to spray paint., and at 10 PM Jason would rather be watching The Walking Dead than sanding trim. The dirty truth is, in the end it’s all about resale.

When we bough this house we were in love with the neighborhood, but the house itself needed some caressing.  It was tiny. And orange.  After settlement our renovation budget was feeling some pain, too, but we wanted to make this house feel like our own and didn’t want to live with everything as is for the next 5 years until we could hire a contractor.

First stop, the kitchen. In all of its-tangerine paint and carnation pink laminate-glory.


Countertops: $2,300
Cabinet Painting: $92
Nutone Range Hood: $350
Faucet: $150
Cabinet Door Hardware: $50
Spray Paint: $7
Backsplash Tile: $220
Backsplash Supplies: $30

How I got the most bank for my buck:

1. Prioritize the least expensive tasks.

Before we got out sledge hammers and started moving walls, we toned down the paint colors and took out a cabinet. As often happens, the space felt twice as large without any major renovations.

2. Paint your kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them.

New cabinets are the most expensive part of a kitchen renovation. Even the ugliest cabinets look better painted. These got two coats and were hanging back up in 24 hours. Total cost-$92. If your cabinets are beyond salvageable, I’ve heard good things about Rockler Cabinets for replacement doors.

3. Use trim to bring cabinets into the 21st century.

This wasn’t part of our process here, but if you’re thinking your builder grade cabinets have to go, check out these before and afters from our first house:

Using crown molding and 1 x 4, we brought our cabinets up to ceiling height in one afternoon. Not too shabby for a $200 project.

4. Spray paint old hardware.

When you’re outfitting 30-40 doors and drawers, cabinet hardware adds up quickly. I bought $400 worth of mix and match drawer pulls and knobs at the Restoration Hardware Outlet for $50. They were an assortment of brass, satin, and chrome, and if you look closely not all of my knobs are even the same style. I spray painted them with Rustoleum’s Oil-Rubbed Bronze to get matching finishes. High end hardware for $2 apiece.

5. Tile your own backsplash. 

I always use marble tile because, in all honesty, it looks expensive. My 3 x 6 Carrera cost less than those sheets of glass mosaic, though. Admittedly, at $7 a square foot, I’m not buying the highest end marble, so it’s almost completely white. I seal it four times with Enrich N Seal, a stone enhancer that brings out the gray tones for a high end finish. White subway tile is another classic choice, at only $1 a square foot. Check out my tiling and grouting posts for a how-to.  Total costs-$250, including supplies.

6. Replace a built in microwave with a stylish range hood.

I realize this isn’t for everyone. I’ve seen the look of horror on a few friend’s faces as they gasp, “What do you mean you don’t have a microwave??!” Well, to answer that question, we reheat in the oven. But, for all of you not living in the dark ages, it could easily be replaced with a smaller countertop model. The microwave over our stovetop was seriously cramping our style (not to mention cooking space). The Nutone range hood from Home Depot was $350 and took about an hour to install. Every similar style hood I found was well over $1,000. (TIP: buy heavy items from stores with good return policies, online prices look great until it doesn’t fit and you have to pay return shipping on a 50 pound appliance).

7. Avoid hardware stores for countertops and nix the extras.

All the cabinet painting and backsplash tile in the world won’t make up for a laminate countertop on resale, and as much as I love the look of concrete, I don’t have the upper body strength or the patience to DIY them. So, the bulk of my budget went here. Home Depot and Lowe’s are middle men (Home Depot’s $29 a sq ft special recently turned into $100/sq ft for a friend, after adding “installation costs”), so I recommend using a granite company. Often, your number one google result is supplying Home Depot anyway. Our mid-grade granite cost $65 a square foot including an undermount stainless sink.  It was an extra $300 for the sink cutout. We saved $600 by doing our own plumbing and removing the old countertops ourselves (J chopped them up with a circular saw and put them out with the trash). Instead of using the standard 4” granite backsplash, our Carrera marble runs the entire length of the wall, saving $400 and creating a sleeker finish:

9. Don’t skimp on appliances.

We were fortunate enough to have stainless appliances, but if you’re debating whether or not to switch out that white fridge-go for it.  Stainless appliances get a 100% return on resale. Whether or not that SubZero fridge or Viking range is a good investment is dependent on your neighborhood, but if you have black or white appliances, a reasonably priced stainless fridge is worth the expense. If you’re comfortable with financing, Home Depot offers 0% interest for 24 months.

Here’s a shot looking into the breakfast nook, where Jason added a built in bench.

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It’s definitely more our style for a lot less than a major renovation.  Eventually we want to make the kitchen larger and open it up to our living room, but our mini renovation will make it easier for us to wait a few years until we can afford to do exactly what we want.

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